In March of 1929, Forest H. Bixler walked into the office of The Akron Beacon Journal with an unusual request. Could the newspaper help him find his father? Bixler was in search of his past, and a distant memory of being abducted from his home as a young child swirled around in his head. Now a 38-year-old prosperous farmer, Bixler decided to find some answers. The Beacon Journal agreed to publish an article, and Bixler’s story was reprinted in newspapers from coast to coast. Thanks to the wide coverage, Bixler reunited with his father before Father’s Day 1929.

George Wilhite, also known as Forest H. Bixler: The Akron Beacon Journal – March 19, 1929

In 1889, Alta Albert Wilhite married Mattie Jewel Cook in Emporia, Kansas. In 1891, Mattie gave birth to a baby boy named George. Complications during childbirth claimed Mattie’s life. A distraught Alta left the baby in the care of George’s maternal grandmother, Sarah Lewis, and went to work for the federal government in Kansas City. Each week, he sent money home for George’s care.

Around 1893, Alta learned from a friend that Sarah Lewis no longer lived in Emporia. She left town under mysterious circumstances, and George was missing, too. Alta immediately resigned from his job and returned to find his son. There was no sign of George. This began a years-long search for the anguished father. He enlisted police from around the country and offered a $500 reward for information, but George was gone without a trace.

Alta eventually remarried and started a new family, but he never lost hope that someday he would find George. When the US entered the Spanish-American War, Alta enlisted as a quartermaster in the 22nd Kansas Infantry. Each time he traveled to procure military supplies, he scanned the crowds, watching for any sign of George.

The Akron Beacon Journal: March 19, 1929

The details surrounding George’s abduction didn’t emerge for nearly four decades, but when they did, Alta learned that Alfred and Emma Bixler resided two doors down from Sarah Lewis. The Bixlers conspired with Sarah to take George, and they all left Emporia simultaneously. The Bixlers moved to Ohio, where Emma died a short time later. Alfred Bixler changed George’s name to Forest. Forest grew up knowing that Bixler was not his real father but didn’t understand the details.

George (now known as Forest) grew to adulthood, married, and became a successful farmer in Kent, Ohio. All the while, he longed to understand more about his past. In 1929, he contacted the Beacon Journal, and they published his story. It was reprinted in other papers, and soon, letters poured in with possible clues. Alta Wilhite was living nearly 800 miles away when, one day, he picked up a paper and read Forest Bixler’s story. He considered the similarities between Forest and his son George and became convinced he’d found his son. He wrote Forest a letter outlining his suspicions.

The News: March 22, 1929

Forest was hesitant to get his hopes up but arranged for a meeting with Alta. The two reunited and immediately knew they were father and son. Forest changed his name back to George Wilhite and embraced the relationship with his father. For Alta and George Wilhite, Father’s Day in 1929 was really something to celebrate!

Alta Wilhite passed away in 1933, and the story’s final chapter was written in 1953 when George Wilhite died. To learn more about this and other incredible stories in our archives, search Newspapers.com™ today.

Share using:

Related Posts

21 thoughts on “Reunited for Father’s Day

      1. And also dreadfully sad that they only had such a short time together after all those years apart. My grandmother’s son was stolen in 1923, when he was 6 years old. She never really recovered from the grief of losing him, and was depressed most of her life. I actually found him on Halloween, 11 months after my grandma passed. I had promised her when I was 9 years old that I would find him some day and I did. Sadly, he passed from a heat stoke a short time later. The people who took him, gave him a story that his mother was sick and died & that the little girl he thought was his sister, was really a neighbors daughter. He told them, “no she wasn’t. She’s my little sister and her name is Jeannie.” The first thing he asked me when I identified myself was, ” Is my mother alive?” He immediately started sobbing after I told him that sadly, she had passed a few months prior. It was heartbreaking listening to his grief. My mother and George did not get to meet prior to his passing, but at least they had long conversations on the phone. My mother and step-dad had planned to travel to Texas to meet him a week after he died. So I certainly understand the often hidden grief and sorrow of those who have missing loved ones.

    1. If it’s not already a book, I’m pretty sure it won’t be long until this story, or a similar one, is written by an author who sees it. Many of us get great ideas from real-life situations, such as this one. In fact, if you search for it, I’m betting there are quite a few stories of similar design. I like reading the Orphan Train stories. I prefer true stories, but I love to find good fictional stories, too.

  1. So happy he found his father in time. It wasn’t long that they had together but so heartwarming to know that it was still possible in an age without today’s modern technology, DNA or ancestry.com, there was still a way for them to reunite. Neither ever gave up. That was an amazing and sweet story.

  2. This was so amazing that they were able to find each other and were able to spend some time together before it was too late. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story with us.

  3. Why do so many newspapers stop at weird dates for a long time? IE: Seattle Times for a while has been only 1946-1946. Aberdeen WA never did get updated at all since the site’s first founding.

  4. I’m now furious with Newspapers.com. I have been using your service through Ancestry for four years and now you are forcing us to pay even higher subscription charges for “Publisher’s Extra” when every search result *requires* that subscription. I’m already a yearly paying customer. Now you want more. You are gouging your customers.

    1. Follow-up: And I can confirm that what I *was* able to access in the past with a basic subscription is *now* restricted behind “Publisher’s Extra.” Newspapers.com is holding previously available content back unless subscribers pay more.

      1. Hi Jim, It might be helpful to explain why there are two different subscriptions on Newspapers.com. When a newspaper is out of copyright, we digitize the paper and make it available on the site with a Basic subscription. However, when a paper is still under copyright, we work with the publishers (who still own the copyright) and have developed a mutually beneficial way for them to share their content with us and still receive compensation each time you click on their paper. Any paper still under copyright is only available with the Publisher Extra subscription. The copyright date is determined by law and not by Newspapers.com. I hope this explanation helps. Good luck with your research. There are so many wonderful articles in the papers that can help us piece together our family trees. If possible, can you share which paper used to have issues available under the Basic subscription and are now only available through Publisher Extra. We can do some research and determine if a mistake has occurred. Thank you.

        1. Great reasons, but I agree with Jim. It feels like a bait and switch, and I’m angry about it too. I refuse to buy the premium service.

          1. Check with your local library. Many libraries have a subscription you can use for free, but you must use it in the library.

      2. Thank you for that. I have really been debating whether or not to suscribe to newspapers.com for quite a while. I’ll have to wait on it.

  5. Without the wire services and the many, many small town newspapers in the 1920s this story may have had a different ending. Wire services still exist but the stories are mostly national ones not local ones such as this and many small town newspapers have been acquired by invvestment groups and shutdown and out of business when they didnt make a bazillion dollar profit or part of a conglomerate or papers that all run the same national news, roughly 80 % of the paper with 10 % local news and the rest syndicated columns, the comics, crossword, and ads. Most newspapers rely on ad revenue not subsciptions to pay the bills. Home delivery is non existant in many places. Mail subscriptions may no longer be an option. Newspapers are publishing a print paper 2, 3, maybe 5 days a week instead of daily. There are no longer Court Reporters or those once assigned to cover the city council or county commission or the other special reporters and editors as staff have been laid off in favor of freelance journalists or contributing writers who are paid by the article and may not even live in the area. Investigative reporting is rare in small towns and likely where its needed the most. Support your local newspaper if you have one so stories like this can provide a happy ending for someone in the future

  6. As for Alfred Bixler, there is a 1888 marriage record in Stark County, Ohio, of a William A. Bixler (b. 1862) and Emma A. Schrefler (b. 1867) that is the likely pair who kidnapped young George. They were married in Ohio, moved to Kansas, and then moved back to the same place in Ohio, likely passing off to those who knew them George/Forest as the child they gave birth to while moved away. One Ancestry family tree has Alfred passing away on 2 Nov 1930 in Union City, Lebanon, Pennsylvania, USA.

    1. Also, in the 1870 census for Bethlehem, Stark Co., Ohio, the Bixler & Schrefler families were close farm neighbors, listed on the same census page.

  7. I was contacted by a man online claiming to be my cousin’s child. My cousin had married a few times, but never had children – to his knowledge. The man online offered to send a picture of himself, and the photo showed so many similarities. I copied the photo and drove 2 hours to see my cousin and tell him the news.
    It turns out that a summer fling had given him a son he never knew about! They are thick as thieves now and so happy to be in each others lives!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *